In the underground the two talked no more; but Mr. Morton, affecting to read his paper, glanced up once or twice at the old shrewd face opposite that stared so steadily out of the window into the roaring darkness. And once more he reflected how astonishing it was that anyone in these days—anyone, at least, possessing common sense—and common sense was written all over that old bearded face—could believe such fantastic rubbish as that which had been lately discussed. It was not only the particular points that regarded Laurie Baxter—all these absurd, though disquieting hints about insanity and suicide and the rest of it—but the principles that old Cathcart declared to be beneath—those principles which he had, apparently, not confided to Miss Deronnais. Here was the twentieth century; here was an electric railway, padded seats, and the Pall Mall...! Was further comment required?
The train began to slow up at Gloucester Road; and old Cathcart gathered up his umbrella and gloves.
“Then tomorrow,” he said, “at the same time?”
Mr. Morton made a resigned gesture.
“But why don’t you go and have it out with him yourself?” he asked.
“He would not listen to me—less than ever now. Good night!”
* * * * *
The train slid on again into the darkness; and the lawyer sat for a moment with pursed lips. Yes, of course the boy was overwrought: anyone could see that: he had stammered a little—a sure sign. But why make all this fuss? A week in the country would set him right.
Then he opened the Pall Mall again resolutely.
Mr. and Mrs. Nugent were enjoying their holiday exceedingly. On Good Friday they had driven laboriously in a waggonette to Royston, where they had visited the hermit’s cave in company with other grandees of their village, and held a stately picnic on the downs. They had returned, the gentlemen of the party slightly flushed with brandy and water from the various hostelries on the home journey, and the ladies severe, with watercress on their laps. Accordingly, on the Saturday, Mrs. Nugent had thought it better to stay indoors and dispatch her husband to the scene of the first cricket match of the season, a couple of miles away.
At about five o’clock she made herself a cup of tea, and did not wake up from the sleep which followed until the evening was closing in. She awoke with a start, remembering that she had intended to give a good look between the spare bedroom that had been her daughter’s, and possibly make a change or two of the furniture. There was a mahogany wardrobe ... and so forth.
She had not entered this room very often since the death. It had come to resemble to her mind a sort of melancholy sanctuary, symbolical of glories that might have been; for she and her husband were full of the glorious day that had begun to dawn when Laurie, very constrained though very ardent, had called upon them in state to disclose his intentions. Well, it had been a false dawn; but at least it could be, and was, still talked about in sad and suggestive whispers.